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Tokyo with kids – our guide to a family holiday

Tokyo with kids

Tokyo with kids – our guide to a family holiday

Our first trip to Tokyo with kids was with Fletcher when he was one and a half. We returned to the city almost exactly 12 months later. On our most recent Tokyo trip, Fletcher was four and we now had baby Declan who was nine months old.

There is so much to Tokyo that even after three trips we have barely scraped the surface. This city is incredibly diverse. There are areas that are well known for having highrises, being fast-paced, anime-filled, modern Tokyo. Then there are shrines, temples and preserved neighbourhoods that show an insight into ancient times. Tokyo also has a number of fantastic parks and gardens around the city. Here is our guide to Tokyo with kids.

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What to do in Tokyo with kids.

1. Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Tokyo disneyland with kids

The obvious and ultimate choice in entertainment for kids. Tokyo Disneyland was the first of its kind to open outside of the United States. Tokyo DisneySea is a Disney theme park said to be more ‘adult friendly’ with a water theme.

We have been to Tokyo Disneyland twice. On our recent trip, the day we had tickets, it poured rain! It was such a horrible day, weather-wise. The rain was consistent all day and the wind meant it was impossible to keep dry. It was also the only day that our four-year old didn’t whine, not even once! He walked around, in his Mickey poncho and had an absolutely amazing time, enjoying the magic of Disney.

2. Ghibli Museum Ghibli Museum

If your kids have seen Studio Ghibli movies then a visit to the Ghibli Museum would be sure to impress. There are displays of artwork, examples of how animations are made and even a life-size Catbus for children to play on. The museum also has a small theatre showing a short film made by Hayao Miyazaki.

At 2.5, Fletcher enjoyed the museum but tired quickly so our time was cut a bit short. I am sure now that he is older and loves a lot of the movies, he would never want to leave. 

3. Visit department stores Tokyo with kids

Tokyo has many department stores so you won’t have a hard time finding one. Most have a basement level with a grocery store type set-up. There are pre-packed meals and amazing fancy desserts. One or more levels will be filled with various types of sit down restaurants, this can be fun to look at all the plastic meals displayed out front.

Department stores are a great way to get out of the rain. We found most have a floor that is particularly great when travelling with a baby or child. One day to escape the rain we entered a Tokyu Hands and found along with children’s clothes and toys the floor had a baby room for feeding and changing. Fletcher had fun playing with a train table and looking at all the different toys.

4. Eat at a themed cafe

We have visited Cafe de Miki with Hello Kitty in Himeji but are yet to experience a theme cafe in Tokyo. There are the known cat cafes as well as other animals now including hedgehogs. There are Alice in Wonderland restaurants, the Kawaii Monster Cafe and there are always temporary cafes popping up.

5. Look around Tokyo Station’s Character StreetCharacter Street Tokyo Station

We have been here with Fletcher when he was 2.5 and 4 years old. This place was definitely a winner with him both times. You are wondering why a kid would find a station so interesting? well, it’s what’s inside. Tokyo Station has sections like kitchen street, Ramen street and the main attraction for kids, character street. An area filled with themed shops. Fletcher loves the Plarail shop which has play trains set up. Other stores include Pokemon, Hello Kitty and my personal favourite, Donguri Garden. This store sells Studio Ghibli merchandise. Tokyo Station’s Character Street is a fun place to see a heap of characters popular in Japan.



6. See the city’s tallest buildings

Tokyo Skytree stands at 634 metres tall. It is much more than just a broadcasting tower. The area surrounding it is called Tokyo Skytree City. There’s a shopping and entertainment complex with many shops and restaurants as well as an aquarium. Tokyo Skytree has two observation decks, shop, cafe and restaurant.
Located close to Asakusa, the Skytree can be seen from Sensoji Temple. It is a nice 20-minute walk from the temple to Tokyo Tower across the Sumida River. Skytree area

Tokyo Tower is 333 metres high and stands in the centre of Tokyo. It is modelled after the Eiffel Tower, however, air safety regulations mean the Tokyo version is a striking shade of orange. The tower’s main observatory is 150 metres high and a special observatory at 250 metres can be accessed at an extra cost. Below the tower, there are souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants as well as a manga theme park. The tower’s mascot characters are rather amusing.
When viewing Tokyo Tower, walk a short distance to Zojoji Temple which dates back to 1393. From the temple grounds, Tokyo Tower is visible. This is a classic image that shows the diversity of the city. Tokyo Tower Tokyo tower with temple

7. View Tokyo from above Tokyo view

Although we have been to the base and viewed each of the buildings above, we haven’t actually entered either of them. We are tight, so opted for the free view. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has an observatory in each of its two towers. The observatories are 202 metres high and they are FREE. There are windows around the tower that offer wonderful views over the city. During a clear day, we were able to spot Mount Fuji in the distance.

8. Visit some parks and gardens

Tokyo may be a massive metropolitan filled with high rises but it is also full of many gorgeous landscaped gardens and spacious green parks. Fletcher discovered a love for Japanese gardens on our recent trip, his main reason was seeing large Koi fish swimming in the ponds.

Shinjuku Gyoen shinjuku gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen is a short walk from Shinjuku station. It has a history dating back to 1603. The large park is divided into three different gardens. A traditional Japanese landscape garden that has ponds, bridges and a Taiwan Pavilion. We entered too close to closing time and didn’t get to see the English garden or the French garden. Shinjuku Gyoen is popular during cherry blossom season and also has a number of trees that give lovely colours during Autumn.

Ueno Park Ueno Park

Ueno Park is full of things to keep you busy. Inside the park, you will find shrines and temples, five museums, a Starbucks and a small children’s amusement park. There is also a zoo but I am not a fan of small zoos with concrete cages so we have not visited. During our first time in Tokyo, we decided on the National Science Museum. Fletcher liked seeing the mounted animals but we didn’t find it to be worth our time. We should have chosen the Tokyo National Museum as it features items culturally relevant to Japan. Ueno Park

We revisited the park this year with my parents, mainly to let the kids run around and for Fletcher to enjoy the amusement park, Ueno Kodomo Yuen. You purchase tickets from a vending machine inside that you then hand over to the ride attendants. It is fairly old and some smaller attractions look like their days are over but Fletcher had fun going on the rides which were well suited for a four-year-old.
There is also a small playground, a water fountain and a Starbucks in the park.

Many more

There are so many more parks and gardens that we are yet to discover. In our three trips to Tokyo, we have managed to not enter Yoyogi Park. It is one of Tokyo’s largest and is a popular hangout spot. One year it was closed due to mosquitos carrying dengue fever. I am embarrassed to say on our recent trip we couldn’t find it as we entered the wrong area.

9. Explore the different neighbourhoods Shibuya crossing

Tokyo is divided into several wards and each has something different to offer. Walk down Takeshita Dori in Harajuku for pop culture stores and famous crepes. Harajuku is also where you will find Kiddyland, a store selling various character-themed items and souvenirs. See the statue of loyal dog Hachiko outside Shibuya station and while you’re there, watch the swarm of people at Shibuya’s ‘scramble crossing’. Akihabara is a world of anime, manga and computer/gaming stores. There are a few ‘adult’ items and stores around so just be aware. Asakusa gives a more traditional Japan feel with Sensoji temple the main attraction. These are the areas most people know about, there are several other neighbourhoods to just stroll around. We walked around Kichijoji for ages after visiting Ghibli Museum. Tokyo Neighbourhoods

There are heaps of different things to see so just strolling around can be fun. Our first two trips with Fletcher aged 1.5 and 2.5 we would lay him back in the stroller and walk while he napped. Sometimes he slept for two hours so we would be worn out but we saw so much of Tokyo this way. Harajuku

10. Tokyo Dome City

Tokyo Dome City was on our list but we are yet to make it there. It is a large entertainment complex that houses the Tokyo Dome baseball Stadium. Tokyo Dome City has an amusement park, a spa complex with hot spring pools, a hotel, shops and restaurants. There is also other entertainment such as a bowling alley, skating arena, space museum and more. I have always had ASOBono! on my list for a rainy day. It is a large indoor playground with themed areas including one for babies.
Each attraction of Tokyo Dome City has an entrance fee, see the website here.

11. Visit Odaiba Visit Odaiba, Tokyo with kidsFerris Wheel Odaiba Tokyo

Ok, I have a post about having a bad day in Odaiba but to be fair it was a National holiday and a bad restaurant experience affected my mood. Odaiba is on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. There are several shopping malls each one with a different theme. You will find Tokyo Joypolis, Legoland discovery centre and a ramen theme park. Venus Fort is a shopping mall in the Palette Town area. Its design resembles a medieval European village. Also in Palette Town is a Toyota showroom, a 115-metre tall Ferris wheel and an entertainment complex with a large game arcade. There are two science museums in Odaiba and a hot spring theme park. Odaiba is also home to many architecturally interesting buildings. Odaiba shopping centre

Getting to Odaiba
The journey over to Odaiba could be fun in itself. On a normal day, The Yurikamome would offer great views as you cross over Tokyo’s Rainbow bridge. It is an elevated train with no driver and you can stand at the very front. Unfortunately, the day we went it was crazy busy so we didn’t get to enjoy it as we were squashed in. On our way back we took the Rinkai line from Tokyo Teleport Station which despite its name, is just an underground railway.

Another option for getting to Odaiba is by boat. There are a few different lines available but the most popular is on the Himiko boat which has panoramic windows. See here for information on boat rides.
It is also possible to walk across the Rainbow Bridge into Odaiba.

12. Ride/watch the trains Tokyo trains with kids

Most kids are interested in trains and Tokyo certainly has plenty of them. Ride the Yamanote line which loops around Tokyo’s major spots. Find a spot in the station and watch all the different trains go by. If you aren’t riding a Shinkansen during your trip, you could still view them coming and going.

13. Go on a day trip Enoshima day trip

If you are in Tokyo for a while, consider taking a break from the city to explore some of its surroundings. Some of the more popular destinations such as Nikko or the Fuji Five Lakes are 2 hours from Tokyo which can be difficult to achieve in a day with kids. We chose to visit the closer area of Kamakura and Enoshima. It was great to explore a different area, we felt a little short of time but we could have planned our day better. Another option for a day trip less than an hour from central Tokyo is Mount Takao. This gives you a chance to enjoy nature with hiking trails leading up the mountain. There is also a cable car that runs halfway up. 

Getting around Tokyo with kids

Trains

Getting around Tokyo

The Yamanote line circle’s all of Tokyo’s major spots in a loop. Hop on and off where you like.
There are other lines as well as subways connecting the different areas. Trains always run on time and stations are clean. The convenience of Tokyo’s trains is one of the reasons we find travelling the city easy with kids.

Tips for Tokyo trains with kids

  • Avoid peak hours in the early morning and evenings.
  • Push your stroller straight on. We learnt this from watching the locals do it. The Yamanote line now has designated spots to stand with strollers.
  • Bring entertainment and snacks for long rides. Toddlers soon get bored with sitting on the train.
  • Get an IC card. So much easier to scan a card on entry and exit rather than bother with tickets.

Walking

It may be a large city but many districts are next to each other and walking between them is definitely possible. This was more difficult when Fletcher was four but when he was younger we walked a lot with him in the stroller. On our recent trip, we stayed in an Airbnb house that required us to walk to surrounding stations.

Taxi

Tokyo Taxi rides are expensive and we have so far managed to avoid them. A taxi could be handy for getting to and from the station with luggage.

Bus

Buses connect Tokyo with outlying areas. We used a highway bus to get to Tokyo Disneyland when we turned up to a train station during peak hour and found it would have been unsafe to squash in with our kids.

What to bring for Tokyo with kids

We have found both a stroller and a baby carrier useful when travelling in Tokyo with our young children. Strollers can be a little painful when in crowded areas, in small stores and in train stations. We did use it for walking long distances and fully reclined it for Fletcher to sleep in. When choosing our Maclaren stroller we kept travelling in mind. It is lightweight, folds umbrella style and has a shoulder strap which makes it easy to carry when not in use. Click here to see the stroller we use.

Tokyo with babyOur baby carrier was handy for places that a stroller just wouldn’t have worked. We were able to go to Tsukiji Fish market with Fletcher strapped in safely against one of us. When shopping in busy small stores a stroller would have been impossible. Both Fletcher at 18 months old and Declan at 9 months old would nap while in the carrier. We had them on our fronts facing into us which made them feel secure. Ours was the original Ergobaby carrier. I wish we had a more breathable carrier during our summer trip, like the Ergobaby with cooling mesh, click here to view the latest prices.

When Fletcher was 2.5 years old it, he was far too independent to want to be strapped to us. He had an abundance of energy and would walk and run around and then we would lay him down in the stroller and walk while he slept.

What to eat in Tokyo with kidsEating in Tokyo with kids

There are many options for eating with kids in Tokyo. We find the easiest to be getting meals from the amazing convenience stores. We also make sure to carry fruit for snacks which we buy from either supermarkets or smaller grocers. Read my post on eating with kids in Japan.

What area of Tokyo to stay in with kids

A common question from people travelling to Tokyo with kids is what area is best to stay in. There is no particular area that is better as the city is so well-connected. Staying near the Yamanote line would be best, especially for a first-time visit. This will ensure you can easily commute to popular areas. We have always been close enough to Shinjuku Station that we can walk with our luggage to get the Narita Express to the airport on our way home.

Some people love staying in Asakusa which is understandable as there are a few things in the area. Here is where you will find Sensoji Temple, Kappabashi shopping street and Sumida River park. It is also a nice walk across the river to the Tokyo Skytree area. We have so far preferred to be close to the areas of Shibuya and Harajuku as we love the energy of these parts.

Family accommodation in Tokyo

It can be difficult to find hotel rooms in Tokyo large enough for families. Accommodation choices are obviously determined by budget as well as what you find comfortable.

On our first trip to Tokyo, we bed shared with 18-month-old Fletcher. We booked a king room at Hotel Century Southern Tower. It is in an excellent location, right near an exit of Shinjuku Station. We kept watch and booked when prices were low.
Once Fletcher was older, we wanted him to have his own bed and chose a 2-bedroom apartment through Airbnb. It was a short walk from Yoyogi Station. We enjoyed having an apartment and loved the area. Tokyo airbnb

In 2016 we were now a group of 4 adults, a four-year-old and a nine-month-old. I wanted a kitchen so I could prepare meals for the baby. We again went with Airbnb although we were hesitant as there were issues surrounding it in Japan. We chose to book a house owned by the host and her family. It was a narrow 3-story house amid a residential area. The nearest station was Nishi-Shinjuku and we were still within walking distance to Shinjuku Station.

I believe a house is a safer option for a Tokyo Airbnb. A lot of apartments are sub-leased and the owner of the property can indicate to tenants that Airbnb is not allowed. Other residents in the apartment may not like having Airbnb guests in the building and make complaints. Both of these reasons can see bookings cancelled.

Are you new to Airbnb?

Click here and sign up and you will get $55 AUD in credit!

We will get $25 AUD credit once you complete a trip.

Here is the link to the house we stayed in https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/6953234

Tokyo with kids

We love going to Japan and Tokyo is particularly great with kids. It is a low-crime city and the convenience of excellent public transport makes Tokyo easy to navigate, especially when travelling with kids. There are so many different things to experience, Tokyo will always be interesting.



Booking.com

Tokyo with kids guide

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15 Comments
  • Katherine
    Posted at 11:03h, 06 August Reply

    This is a fantastic blog, and you covered so many relevant points! Thank you!! My only question is in regards to the IC (Suica) card for kids. Is there a child rate card different from adults that would be best for a 6- and 9-year-old staying in Tokyo for a month?

    • Elisha
      Posted at 00:13h, 07 August Reply

      Hi Katherine,
      Thank you so much, glad you found my blog useful!
      There are childrens Suica cards, they cost the same however, the amount deducted for trips is less. Info here http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html
      Elisha.

  • Sharon Foster
    Posted at 03:32h, 20 August Reply

    Found your blog through TripAdvisor – thank you very much for the great advice, it is just what I was looking for, and your trip pictures are beautiful!

    Will travel to Tokyo-Osaka-Kobe in Oct. for 3-13 with my 2.5 yr old and 80 yr old mother (just 3 of us). Planning to get the 14-day JR Pass from Narita, then I saw your recommendation on the Suica card and the easy in/out access of the train station gates. Is the ticket i entering/exiting gates with stroller & luggage enough of an issue also to get a Suica card for the city travel as well?

    Many thanks for your suggestions! – Sharon

    • Elisha
      Posted at 10:49h, 20 August Reply

      Hi Sharon,

      Thank you for your comment! If you are getting a JR Pass that will cover your time then no need to get a Suica card. You just pass through beside the ticket office and show your pass. Do make sure a 14 day pass is worth it though.

      Elisha

  • Veronica
    Posted at 23:13h, 09 September Reply

    Thanks so much Elisha for all the great and useful info! Specially regarding travelling with kids, that it is not so easy to find. We are travelling with my 1 y.o. and 3 y.o. in October and was wondering if it would be better to take our double stroller or just a single and a carrier. Thinking on our backs i d take the double one but we are really scared that it might be to complicated or stressful. What would be your adviced?
    Thanks a lot!

    Veronica

    • Elisha
      Posted at 00:00h, 10 September Reply

      Hi Veronica

      Thank you so much, I’m glad you found it useful! Some places we folded up our stroller and carried it so it paid to have a lightweight one. If your double is side by side then it would be too wide for most places, if it’s a lengthwise one than I guess if you have a stroller anyway it wouldn’t make too much difference.
      Are you only visiting Tokyo?

  • Veronica
    Posted at 10:29h, 10 September Reply

    Thanks for your quick reply Elisha! We are planning to do some day trips from Tokyo (maybe Nikko and Kamakura) and we ll stay in Kyoto and the plan is to visit Nara and Osaka (if it worth going as the big typhoon hited the city very hard last week)
    Our double stroller is a Mc Laren side by side. Do you think it would a big headache to take it? I d really like to avoid that. Thanks again so much for your help and suggestions.

    • Elisha
      Posted at 11:42h, 10 September Reply

      The places I think it may be a problem is in crowded areas, such as Takeshita street in Harajuku and train stations, you might find it difficult getting a wide stroller through all the people. Some stores would also be too small to enter with a double stroller. For walking around, visiting parks and even on the trains (outside of peak travel times) I think it would be fine. The stations have lifts, sometimes the location can be a little inconvenient. I do remember us taking our son out in order to just take the stairs. Sorry I don’t feel i’m being very helpful, It depends on what your comfortable with. We always had a carrier when our sons were little and it was definitely easier but if you are going to have a stroller anyway I’m not sure a double would be a lot more inconvenient than a single.

      A stroller was more of a problem in Kyoto, temples and shrines with stairs and some places require the bus for transport.

  • Veronica Pfennig
    Posted at 12:03h, 13 September Reply

    Thanks so very much Elisha! Your comments are absolutely helpful and they give me a real overview of what could we expect. We are weighing the pros and cons. If it s ok for you i will bother you with one more question. We are arriving at Narita airport and staying in Shinjuku, near the station Nishi-shinjuku-gochome Sta. . How would you recommend us to travel? I read that you stayed as well near hear and it would be great to know your experience. As well if you have any tip on where to buy diappers in the area would be a super appeciated bonus !!!
    Again, thank you so so much for helping us preparing our Japan family adventure!!!

    • Elisha
      Posted at 00:22h, 14 September Reply

      We have always used the Narita express to Shinjuku Station. From there you could walk or get the subway to Nishi-Shinjuku-Gochome Station. I have a post about diapers in Japan https://www.strollingadventures.com/buying-nappiesdiapers-japan/ There are plenty of department stores around Shinjuku Station area, I remember changing a diaper in Takashimaya and the site lists baby goods on 9th floor so that would be my first place to look. How exciting! when do you go?

  • Rimli Das
    Posted at 21:26h, 06 January Reply

    Hi Elisa – I found your blog via TripAdvisor and found it super helpful thank you! I am intending to travel this spring with my 2 year old and elderly parents for a week and was thinking of staying at Shinjuku and visit Kyoto,Osaka,Mt. Fuji (day trip), Nara and KInosaki Onsen. Do you think we are being really ambitious here?

    • Elisha
      Posted at 02:04h, 07 January Reply

      Hi, thank you for leaving a comment! Are you thinking of doing all of that in one week or have I misunderstood?

  • Rimli Das
    Posted at 08:49h, 07 January Reply

    Hi – sorry yes! 😀 Although I have now changed my mind and would be keen to cover just Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka with a day trip to Mt. Fuji.

  • Rimli Das
    Posted at 22:18h, 07 January Reply

    Hi Elisa- yeah in about 7-8 days although we are now thinking of covering only Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Mt.Fuji. Do you think even that could be too much with parents and toddler? Any tips on hotel near the stations would be really handy. Many thanks

    • Elisha
      Posted at 23:22h, 07 January Reply

      Sorry I think it would definitely be too much. You could split your time between Tokyo and Kyoto and maybe squeeze in a side trip. This is our itinerary from our first Japan trip https://www.strollingadventures.com/japan-12day-itinerary/ which was well timed to see Tokyo, Kyoto and Takayama. You could change Takayama for Hakone which has Mt.Fuji views and is located in between the two cities. We also have a 10 day itinerary where we drove around Mt. Fuji but the rest of our trip felt too rushed.

      We have stayed at the Hotel century Southern Tower which is in a great location and for Kyoto we have stayed at the Citadines because it had a small kitchen but it is a walk from the main station.

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